Analysis
  • Drew Karpyshyn has recently joined 2 other ex-BioWare employees in leaving the company to join Archetype.
  • In a blog post, he claimed that BioWare had become too corporate.
  • This is a cautionary tale for future developers and publisher to not create a corporate culture around their creative endeavors.

BioWare has been a bit of a shambles lately. The last Mass Effect game wasn’t exactly ‘top-notch’. They also completely screwed the pooch on Anthem, even though they’ve promised to ‘fix’ it now.

Turns out that there’s a reason behind this rapid downward spiral into mediocrity. Drew Karpyshyn, the lead writer for the Mass Effect series, recently left BioWare to join Wizards of the Coast’s new studio, Archetype.

In a blog post about why he left the company, he spelled it out pretty clearly. BioWare has become an overly corporate place to make video games.

Mass Effect 1 - ScreenshotMass Effect 1 - Screenshot
If you want games as successful as Mass Effect 1, you have to let creative people do what they do. | Source: Reddit

Mass Effect, BioWare, and Corporate Culture

Karpyshyn makes it very clear that a lack of creative freedom is a huge problem at BioWare. In his recent blog post, he said:

We were less able to make what we loved, and the teams were pushed to create games based on market research rather than our creative instincts and passions.

Clearly, this lack of creative freedom is the exact reason that Anthem turned out the way it did. It almost seems like no one at BioWare actually wanted to make a clone of Destiny.

Considering they’re the studio known for some pretty groundbreaking narrative titles, like Mass Effect, some live-service garbage probably wasn’t on their bucket list.

Anthem - Mass Effect ComparisonAnthem - Mass Effect Comparison
A lot of blame can be handed to EA for their interference with Anthem, not to mention the bad atmosphere at BioWare which had constant staff changes occurring. | Source: Anthem

Mass Effect Was Born From Freedom

Without creative freedom, we wouldn’t even have Mass Effect. Work started on the game back in 2004, well before EA had their grubby claws into BioWare. How different things could have been if EA had owned the company sooner.

Having a specific main character? That might alienate people so that’d probably be gone. That sexual content? That’d probably have to go as well.

This is the problem with corporate interference in creative endeavors. If you look at a creative product with a business mind, you don’t get Mass Effect, you get Anthem.

Not that EA is solely to blame. BioWare let it happen after all.

It’s a Warning Sign for Other Publishers

With this recent departure, there are now 3 ex-BioWare employees who’ve gone over to Archetype. Presumably, they’ll be given the freedom they need to produce great games at this studio.

This is a cautionary tale for the entire industry. Look at all of those video games that tried to chase trends. Those MMOs that existed because World of Warcraft was insanely popular. What about the massive FPS boom? 90% of those games that were chasing Call of Duty’s crown failed spectacularly.

You don’t get successful trying to copy something already successful. At least not in the games industry. You need to let the people who are actually creative, do their thing. Unless you just want to produce hot garbage of course. In which case, carry on.

This article was edited by Samburaj Das.

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